The State of War,

The Principle of Waste,

The Restoration of Self-Goverment

excerpted from the book

Indispensible Enemies

The Politics of Misrule in America

by Walter Karp

Franklin Square Press, 1993, paper

[originally published - 1973]


The State of War

America's active dominion over other nations was achieved with remarkable swiftness. Latin America excepted, it was accomplished in a dozen years after the Second World War. Today, the United States has entangling alliances with more than half the nations of the world; it supports at any given moment at least a dozen different client regimes. American military bases girdle the globe and American spies and intelligence agents circulate everywhere. The American military establishment deploys a uniformed force of some three million troops, and now costs the citizenry more than $80 billion a year. Whether that dominion is called an "empire" or a "Free World coalition," the most important question is how it came about at all. How could a republic which made the principle of no entangling alliances the foundation of its foreign policy become entangled in a complication of alliances unparalleled in modern history? How could a republic whose citizens only a generation ago looked on peacetime military expenditure with the deepest repugnance become saddled with the most profligate of military establishments? How could a republic whose citizens were determined as late as 1947 to disband their military forces manage to fight two distant wars in the next eighteen years?

To such questions the official answer, of course, is world Communism. According to the party oligarchs and their spokesmen, the entangling alliances, the military establishment and the active global politics of the United States were forced upon this Republic by a worldwide threat to the nation's security, the threat posed by a Communist movement to dominate the world, a threat which the United States had to resist wherever Communism, octopus-fashion, reared the tip of a tentacle. This, the oligarchs' version of the Cold War, did not evolve slowly under the pressure of the Cold War. It was unfurled full-blown to the citizenry by President Harry Truman on March 12, 1947. Applying to Congress for American aid to Greece and Turkey, Truman based his appeal not on America's marginal interests in these countries but on a capacious new definition of American overseas interests, one which claimed that "totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence, the security of the United States." We were not defending Greece from a Communist takeover, we were defending the United States from a Communist takeover in Greece. This was the so-called Truman Doctrine and it has formed with little change the foundations of America's Cold War policies for a quarter of a century.

... In recent years a number of "revisionist" historians, Gabriel Kolko and William Appleman Williams among them, minutely scrutinizing the actual events preceding the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine, have exposed the soft core of mendacity at its heart. They have shown, beyond any serious doubt, that well before the Soviet subjugation of Poland, the United States Government under Truman had pursued a hostile and provocative policy toward the Soviet Union, a policy made immeasurably more menacing by the American monopoly of the atomic bomb. As part of that provocative policy; Truman reneged on various agreements reached at the Yalta Conference and announced our government's determination to keep Poland outside the Soviet sphere of influence. That Stalin would interpret this as a hostile act was certainly obvious to Truman and his advisers. From Stalin's point of view, what other interest could the United States have in Poland except an interest in weakening Soviet security at a traditionally sensitive spot? Stalin's response was swift and brutal. He marched in and crushed what little autonomy East European states still enjoyed, thereby securing on his own what the Yalta participants had previously recognized as his.

The significance of this is clear. America's rulers had deliberately menaced the Soviet Union at a vital point in defiance of previous understandings. In doing so they had been instrumental in provoking a brutal response by Stalin. Then these same rulers deceitfully declared that Stalin's reaction was not only a baseless act of aggression but something more grandiose yet-conclusive evidence of Stalin's grand design for world domination. If the revisionists are even partially correct in their analysis, the whole logical foundation for the American Government's Cold War expansion was largely concocted by the party oligarchs.

From the time of William McKinley to the present, the characteristic feature of American foreign policy-especially in its active phases-is the absence of any rational reason of state. During that span of time America has waged five wars and in none of them did we fight for a clear-cut national interest of the kind diplomatic historians recognize in the affairs of nation-states.

William McKinley waged a war against Spain for no national interest except America's alleged "friendship" toward the Cuban rebels and our "traditional" anticolonialism. The only economic interest involved, namely Wall Street investors in Cuba, opposed the prospective war, since they preferred doing business with Cuba's Spanish overlords rather than with the insurgents. When McKinley started the war, however, the great "powers" of Wall Street promptly shut up and went along.

In the period of straight-out American imperialism after the Spanish-American War-imperialism begun as anti-imperialism-the whole fabric of justification was woven out of whole cloth in the manner of the Vietnam "domino theory." The oligarchs crushed the independence of a few Central American republics and turned the Caribbean Sea into an 'American Lake" in order, said the party oligarchs, to protect the Panama Canal, which had to be built and controlled by the United States, according to the oligarchs, to secure passage of U.S. warships into the Pacific, which was necessitated, according to the oligarchs, by America's new need for a "two-ocean navy," which was itself necessitated, according to the oligarchs, by America's interest in China. Since our interest in China had been created out of nothing by means of an open door policy which announced America's gratuitous intention to preserve the "integrity" of Imperial China, the whole imperial enterprise rested, as far as American interests were concerned, on exactly nothing at all.

Before Wilson dragged America into the First World War, American interest in the outcome of a stalemated European conflict was virtually nil. Such being the case, Wilson had to fabricate one. The defeat of Germany, according to Wilson, would make the world "safe for democracy," and the proof of Germany's threat to democracy was that it had violated America's neutral shipping rights. These rights, however, Wilson had already sold to the British, virtually forcing Germany into a policy of unlimited submarine warfare and providing Wilson with the very pretext he wanted for going to war. Wilson's chief adviser, Colonel E. M. House, actually suggested this warmongering policy to him in January 1916 while Wilson was still trying to drum up a cause of war over the sinking of the British ship Lusitania in May 1915. In a cable from London, House notes that Wilson's policy of secretly siding with the British would eventually force Germany into "transcendent sea warfare. We will then be compelled to sever relations and our position will be far better than if we do so over a nine-month-old issue and largely upon the wording of a suitable apology." Since even the violation of neutral shipping rights could not well justify a massive American war commitment, Wilson, having fabricated his pretext for war, announced that America was fighting for eternal peace and universal democracy and called for total war mobilization, a mass conscript army and the first overseas expeditionary force in our history. What these extraordinary endeavors had to do with American interests was exactly nothing. Wilson's determination to enter the European war, and enter it en masse, predated every pretext for doing so.

United States entry into the Second World War was not forced upon us by any compelling national interest either. Like Wilson before him, Roosevelt had to fabricate a casus beii in order to persuade Americans to fight, so little was he able to persuade the citizenry that war in the Eastern Hemisphere menaced our interests. Roosevelt's policy toward Japan was a systematic effort to back Japan against the wall and provoke her into some act of aggression against the United States that would justify a declaration of war. That effort included economic pressure upon Japan resulting in almost complete economic strangulation, diplomatic pressure which consisted chiefly of humiliating ultimatums and, in the view of some, the harboring of the entire Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, where it was militarily useless but provided a tempting target for the Japanese, a target made even more tempting by Roosevelt's never-explained failure to warn the fleet commander that a Japanese attack was imminent. Roosevelt's policy toward Germany was essentially the same. According to the official British War Cabinet minutes of the meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt in August 1941, "the President had said he would wage war but not declare it and that he would become more and more provocative. If the Germans did not like it they could attack American forces.

Everything was to be done to force an incident." Forcing an incident, needless to say, is not the policy of a nation directly menaced by foreign aggression, yet forcing an incident to create a cause of war was also McKinley's stratagem in 1898 when he sent the U.S.S. Maine to Havana; it was Wilson's strategy from mid-1915 onward; it was Johnson's policy in 1964.

The Korean War, too, required an elaborate theory of the national interest to justify America's role in it. Some months before North Korea invaded South Korea, Secretary of State Dean Acheson had publicly announced that Korea lay outside the American "defense perimeter." When the invasion took place, Truman could not readily claim that South Korea was vital to America's national security, since his Secretary of State had just said it was not. Instead he had to propound the view that the system of "collective security" was endangered by North Korean aggression. This is why he sent American forces to South Korea under cover of a United Nations "police action." Ostensibly America was not fighting for its own immediate national interests-we never are-but in the interests of a general principle and its institutional embodiment, the United Nations.

As soon as American troops drove the North Korean army out of South Korea-it took only a few months-Truman showed his eagerness for aggressive action by immediately expanding his war goals. Begun, in Acheson's words, "solely for the purpose of restoring the Republic of Korea to its status prior to the invasion from the north," the Korean War was now carried north of the 38th parallel in order to "reunite" Korea, that is to destroy the North Korean regime, a fundamental shift in policy from a defensive war in defense of no American interest to an offensive war for no American interest. (Personally for Truman the war proved a blunder when General Douglas MacArthur drew the Chinese into the battle and produced a long-drawn-out stalemate with which the American people became progressively disgusted. Truman's celebrated dismissal of MacArthur stemmed precisely from MacArthur's messing things up for him.)

There is not a single modern American war that the oligarchs could not have readily avoided had they chose. Indeed, three of America's modern wartime leaders, Wilson, Roosevelt and Johnson, were actually elected on a promise to keep the peace, a promise they each began breaking immediately upon reelection. There is not a single modern American war which was forced upon the United States by compelling interest of any kind, yet every one of America's wars since 1898 the party oligarchs gave unmistakable signs of welcoming: by fabricating incidents, by carrying out secret provocations, by concocting farfetched theories-"dominoes" in one war, "neutral rights" in another, "collective security" in a third-to demonstrate an American interest not otherwise apparent and to hold up to the American people a foreign menace not otherwise menacing. 'Whenever America's party oligarchs have had the opportunity to prosecute safely a bellicose foreign policy, they have welcomed the opportunity and did so long before 1947 and before a single Communist regime existed.

In prosecuting an aggressive foreign policy, the party oligarchs have been driven by no cause or interest external to themselves: by no fundamental economic interest, by no genuine threat to the security of the Republic, by no irresistible popular demand. Except in the post-World War I period, when the American people, out of universal disgust with Wilson's war, were determined to renew the republican policy of no entangling alliances and the world at large gave the party oligarchs no opportunity to overcome that determination,* American foreign policy has been gratuitously aggressive since 1898, a policy carried out for no compelling reason except the oligarchs' wish to prosecute an aggressive foreign policy. Their reason for wanting such a policy, however, is scarcely mysterious and certainly not irrational. An aggressive foreign policy safeguards the power of the power wielders and strengthens their control over those whom they rule. This is a political commonplace applied by historic rulers a thousand different times, and Americans understood it clearly enough when they opposed entangling alliances.

The political advantages of an aggressive foreign policy are both obvious and manifold. It distracts the citizenry from domestic interests and concerns. It makes national strength, national unity, national security and national resolve the paramount standards by which all else is judged. Under an aggressive foreign policy the common good ceases to be the good of the individual citizens and becomes instead the good of the nation. Under an aggressive foreign policy a republic of self-governing citizens becomes a corporate entity, a mere nation-state, one whose highest purpose is preserving the status quo. An aggressive foreign policy enables the oligarchs to stifle reform on the grounds that reform would be divisive, or would cost the confidence of business," or would be a "luxury" in a time of peril and sacrifice. It enables the party oligarchs to silence independent voices and crush political insurgents on the grounds that they weaken national unity and give comfort to the nation's enemies. In the crises and alarms of an aggressive foreign policy, collusion between the two parties scarcely requires a mask; it can parade itself as virtuous bipartisanship in the service of national survival. Under cover of an aggressive foreign policy the party oligarchs can serve their interests with an ease impossible in a peaceful republic. In the name of national defense they can dispense grotesque windfall privileges such as the oil import quotas and the "national defense" highway fund. In the name of national security they can shroud government in the mantle of secrecy and infringe on the liberty of the citizens. Under an aggressive foreign policy the republican standard itself is gradually inverted. The government, to borrow Madison's phrase, becomes the Censor of the people rather than the people being the Censor of their government. It is the citizenry who must now prove their "loyalty," while the government taps their telephones, monitors their private mail and organizes "patriots" to root out neighborhood traitors. Submission replaces independence; fear replaces hope; the citizenry acquires the habit of obedience and loses the habit of self-rule; the turbulent sea of liberty becomes frozen in the false peace of national unity. If there are risks inherent in an aggressive foreign policy-and there are-they are greatly outweighed by the political advantages it brings to those who wield usurped power.

There is nothing puzzling, therefore, about America's gratuitously aggressive foreign policy or about the oligarchs' successful efforts to drag the Republic into five wars. What an aggressive foreign policy accomplishes by slow degrees, a state of war accomplishes in a trice. Overnight [war] kills reform, overnight it transforms insurgents into traitors and the Republic into an imperiled realm. Overnight it strangles free politics, distracts and overawes the citizenry. Overnight it blasts public hope. The risks of war are very great-as Johnson learned to his sorrow-and the party oligarchs have not launched wars for lighthearted reasons. They have done so because war seemed to them the only way to protect their power in a moment of particular peril. The proof of this is obvious on inspection, for the immediate domestic background to every modern American war-the Korean War partly excepted-was a clear and present danger to party control of politics. Johnson's war was not unique.

It is no coincidence that between 1938 and the 1960s-the period coterminous with a successfully aggressive American foreign policy-free politics in America was more dead, political hope more thoroughly blasted, the prospects for reform more dim than in any other equal span of time in our history. During the period of the Cold War, the party oligarchs were able to savage troublesome politicians for being "soft on Communism" and do this so readily that party ranks were virtually stripped down to their essential core of bosses and henchmen. During those years of political degradation, the "liberal" Democratic party could, with impunity, make a Senator from the Texas ruling clique the leader of its Senate contingent and let a handful of men in the House Rules Committee control the legislative destinies of the nation. During that same period of political degradation, the isolationist wing of the Republican hierarchy could, with equal impunity underwrite the Truman Doctrine of aggressive internationalism by accusing the Democrats of being insufficiently anti-Communist. During that same period false issues flourished and real issues were readily falsified. Public medical care for the aged, the simple and logical extension of the Social Security Act, could be proposed by Tammany-liberals as a visionary reform and successfully attacked by Republicans as "creeping socialism," as if Republicans had not criticized Roosevelt in 1934 for failing to submit a social security measure. It was a period so politically degraded that when the Congressional oligarchs wanted to get rid of an honest regulatory commissioner they quoted his early writings against trusts as proof of Communist leanings, as if the Sherman Act had been the work of fellow travelers. It was a period so politically degraded that a Democratic nominee for the Presidency could be described as a fresh political voice for demanding an end to a nonexistent missile gap and for criticizing a Republican administration's inability to fight "brush-fire wars." During the Cold War period virtually all public issues were foreign issues, which is to say, no issues at all. While every kind of inequity flourished at home, the oligarchs could rivet people's attention to the islands of Quemoy and Matsu. During the Cold War period a citizen would have sought in vain from one coast to the other for five eminent elected officials who spoke with an independent voice. During that period the oligarchs' control over American politics was more complete than it had ever been before, more so even than the 1920s. The Cold War has served the party oligarchs well.


The Principle of Waste

The most obvious consequence of the Cold War is America's present-day military establishment with its three million fighting men, its more than one million civilian employees, its twenty-two thousand prime arms contractors and its more than two million dependent defense workers. If the oligarchs' determination to prosecute an aggressive foreign policy predates by half a century America's contemporary military machine, the political advantages of the military machine have greatly strengthened their determination. It has enabled the party oligarchs to solve what for them is a grave political problem-how to waste scores of billions of dollars a year.

The problem arises from a fundamental condition created by monopoly capitalism. That system, as Baran and Sweezy and others have demonstrated, cannot generate demand for its products and outlets for investment large enough to absorb the surplus wealth it generates. Since surplus wealth which can be neither invested nor consumed will not be produced, "the normal state of the monopoly capitalist economy is stagnation." Without the government's help, "monopoly capitalism," according to Baran and Sweezy, "would sink deeper and deeper into a bog of chronic depression." If the country is to avoid a depression and another collapse of the monopoly system, the government must stimulate demand by means of enormous annual public expenditures.

That the government must pour billions of dollars into the economy each year does not, to conventional political understanding, seem like much of a problem. It would seem to be an unparalleled opportunity for improving the general lot of the citizenry. Virtually every city, town and hamlet in America is in dire need of public revenues. 'What could be more immediately beneficial to all Americans than the allocation of a much-needed $30 billion a year out of Federal revenues to restore, improve and revive local communities? Almost everybody suffers to some degree from polluted air, polluted waterways and a despoiled and deteriorating environment. To accomplish real and sweeping environmental improvement (not just keeping things from getting worse) would cost scores of billions of dollars. What could be simpler than spending every cent required, since the money must be spent anyway? Poverty in America could be virtually eradicated with the stroke of a legislative pen and would, in addition, open vast new markets for the merchandise of the monopoly industries. Again, since the money must be spent, what could be more reasonable than eliminating poverty once and for all?

Yet the oligarchs' efforts in these and other areas have been notoriously grudging. Only the most intense public pressure gets anything done at all.

... On the other hand, under no public pressure whatever, the same oligarchs lavish almost half the annual Federal revenues on military and space programs without the slightest regard for economy, or even, as will be seen, for their own estimate of the needs of national defense. Given a golden opportunity to spend large sums of money on programs beneficial to all, the party oligarchs demonstrably prefer to spend them as wastefully as possible ...

The usurped power of the party oligarchs, perpetually threatened by political liberty, can only be maintained through a ceaseless effort to discourage the exercise of that liberty. The party oligarchs must perpetually try to demonstrate anew that politics is futile, that politicians are powerless, that public hope is public folly, that whatever is must be, that whatever happens is inevitable, that every citizen's real enemy is the citizen next door. That is why the opportunity to spend billions of dollars yearly on improvements of benefit to all is not an opportunity but a peril to the oligarchs. The existence of a profligate military establishment constitutes, therefore, a compelling confirmation of all that I have been trying to demonstrate about power in the American Republic today.

To carry out by government action some large, generous and clearcut improvement in the life of the citizenry would undo all that the oligarchs strive perpetually to achieve: it would reveal the power of politicians, the reach of political action and the noninevitability of many conditions of life. To the exact degree that it was beneficial, it would encourage citizens to act in their own behalf, and their very gratitude to the party which enacted the reforms would endanger the leaders of that party. It would encourage activists, civic improvers and ambitious men of all kinds to enter every political club of that party in every town and district and neighborhood, threatening organization control of local party politics. Neither party organization can afford to be a genuine party of reform. This is the reason ... why both American parties have a "reform" wing and an "Obstructionist" wing: the one to promise, the other to betray. There is no need to conjure up obstructive special interests to explain the oligarchs' refusal to spend public money beneficially.

... party bosses in most states have persistently starved local communities of revenues and forced them to make shift with the property tax, the alleged power of small-town rentiers notwithstanding. The less revenue a local government has, the less it can do and the more moribund and controllable local politics becomes. In addition, the more financially hard-pressed a local government is, the easier it becomes for the state party bosses to strip it of local powers it can no longer finance, a process of state centralization which the oligarchs have been carrying out in most states for generations. Strengthening and augmenting local self-government is the very opposite of what the party oligarchs try to accomplish.

There is a similar reason for the oligarchs' reluctance to spend money eradicating poverty, a reluctance dramatically underscored when Johnson averted a promised war against poverty with a real war in Asia. (Lest anyone attribute this to popular sentiment, it is worth recalling that Johnson won a great election victory after promising the former and was driven out of office for undertaking the latter.) Since the eradication of poverty, by opening new markets, would be far more equitably beneficial to the giant corporations than the arbitrary, lopsided awarding of military contracts, the only interest served by the persistence of poverty is that of the party oligarchs: the poor are relatively easy to control. Mired in daily economic anxieties, distracted from public concerns, grateful for mean favors, inured to insult, to futility, to the arrogance of bureaucrats, they have served as the bulwark of machine politics for many generation here is a backhanded recognition of this truth in the views of certain left-wing elitists, Tammany-socialists, so to speak-when they argue that local self-government or local control of schools is a "middle-class value" of no concern to the poor as such. 'What they mean is that the poor are less likely to defend, or exercise, their liberty than citizens free of the treadmill of penury. This is exactly true, and that is what makes them an asset to oligarchy. America is perhaps unique in this regard, that material plenty and economic security do not render the American citizenry politically docile. It makes them more active and more demanding. It is no coincidence that the movement for civil rights, the growing demand for general reforms, for participation in government, for greater "control over one's life" swelled to a climax during a period of unparalleled economic boom.

The oligarchs' interest in maintaining poverty (or poverty ameliorated by welfare bureaucracies which also keep the poor under control) puts them in something of a dilemma. They must maintain a fairly prosperous level of demand for the sake of the economy while simultaneously maintaining pockets of poverty, a task which requires the capacity to distribute wealth in such a way that the hard-core poor remain poor. For accomplishing this ... the annual military budget is uniquely well adapted.

The political role of the military budget is therefore an obvious one. Given the huge sums involved, it is the only practical way to waste public money which the oligarchs would otherwise have to send in ways perilous to their power. Obviously, the Cold War has been the oligarchs indispensable pretext for doing this. The military needs created by the Cold War cannot account for the size of the annual military budget, because even by the oligarchs' own estimate of the Soviet military menace, most of the money spent on national defense is wasted money. What governs the annual military budget is no recognizable military purpose, not even an ominously aggressive one, no definable estimate of the needs of national security, not even one based on the alleged Kremlin drive to dominate the world. What chiefly governs the military budget is the need to spend enormous sums of money in a useless way. The allegedly powerful Pentagon is simply a receptacle for wasteful expenditure, just as a city dump is the receptacle for the refuse of a city.

The final demonstration of the principle of waste, however, is still fact that the military budget perpetually increases. The reason for that increase has little to do with expanding needs of national defense, for those needs have hardly grown. The number of missiles needed to destroy the Soviet Union has not increased appreciably since the 1950s; the threat of a Soviet attack on Western Europe has not increased over the years; the defensiveness of China has been demonstrated under fairly intense provocation. The reason the oligarchs keep increasing the military budget as far as they can has nothing to with military needs. The truth is, as America's productive capacity increases, the amount of public expenditure needed to maintain effective consumer demand also increases. As a result the oligarchs must constantly contrive new ways to increase military spending. This is the reason Johnson added $4.1 billion to his last non-Vietnam military budget to counterbalance a $3.5 billion cut in his Vietnam budget. This is the reason the oligarchs give the Pentagon hundreds of millions of dollars each year in research funds to concoct and keep moving down the budgetary pipeline new and more outlandishly costly weapons. This is why, in any given year, the annual military budget contains seed money for space shuttles, new ABM systems, advanced bombers and the like, thereby providing the oligarchs with a budgetary backlog they can later expand at will.

... Averting a grave threat to party power is, I believe, the oligarchs' chief reason for creating and sustaining the bloated military establishment. It is not, however, the only one. The annual military budget also brings the oligarchs certain positive political advantages. By dispensing billions of dollars each year to twenty-two thousand arms contractors, the party oligarchs have created a network of economic dependents more sharply subservient, more directly subject to their caprice, than the ordinary monopoly corporations are-the categories of arms contractors and monopolists, of course, overlap. In this sense, the military budget is simply an enormous pork barrel of special privilege, the privileges taking the form of windfall profits, of no-risk profits and, most importantly, of enormous outlays of capital supplied by Pentagon to arms contractors ...

What is more, the military pork barrel spreads special privilege far beyond the confines of the arms contractors; it directly creates at least two million industrial jobs, every holder of which is all too dependent for his well-being on the well-being of the party oligarchs and the success of their corrupt policies. By virtue of the military budget, a large number of ordinary citizens have been given a direct stake in corrupt power.

The fact that the party oligarchs can distribute military boodle wherever and whenever they choose
allows them, for example, to pour military boodle-contracts and jobs-into those states where party power appears to be in danger and to do so whenever such danger arises. During the Kennedy-Johnson years, Texas went from eleventh to second among states in the amount of defense outlays it receives. This is usually attributed to the influence of Johnson, but this is only partly true, if true at all. The more important reason is that in the early 1960s, as I said, the ruling clique of the Texas Democratic party was in serious danger of losing control of the party By pouring billions of dollars of defense boodle and boodle jobs into Texas, the party oligarchs were trying to help the Texas gang retain their power, a matter of great importance since the outbreak of free politics in Texas would have political repercussions throughout the South.

A similar political reason explains why California far surpasses other states in the amount of arms money it receives-almost three times as much as New York State. California's sunny climate has nothing to do with its attractiveness. The fact is, California, alone among the large states, has been chronically difficult for party bosses to control. It is still far from being a tight oligarchic state, but in the mid-1950s California politics was much more open than it is today. The $10 billion in defense outlays which California now receives every year has certainly played a part in this.

Lastly, the fact that the party oligarchs can dispense and withdraw military boodle at will has also helped them strengthen their control over Congress, for it is the bastions of the oligarchs, the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, which control the military pork barrel in Congress. A compliant Congressman troubled by unemployment in his district can have it promptly diminished by the suitable bestowal of a military contract; a Congressman tempted to take an independent line can have unemployment inflicted on his constituents if he steps too far out of line. Through their control of the military boodle, the oligarchs can make a hack Congressman appear a genuine power in the House and an unruly Congressman appear inept and useless in the eyes of his constituents. Party politics is a system of political rewards and punishments controlled as far as possible by the party leaders, and the annual military budget, through its unparalleled size, its geographical extent and its flexibility, has added greatly to the tools at the oligarchs' disposal.

... The party oligarchs have every reason of their own to feed the military-industrial complex and no reason of their own to stop. That is why the American Republic today is saddled with the most profligate military establishment in history, twenty-five years after the American people, following a victorious war, were looking forward to peace and disarmament. Without the fiction and fabrications of the oligarchs' Cold War policies, without its perpetual crises and alarms, such a military establishment would have been politically impossible, indeed virtually unthinkable. The oligarchs' interest in sustaining the Cold War is, therefore, a very great one. It combines all the profound and perennial advantages of an aggressive entangling foreign policy with an unequaled opportunity to use the wealth of the citizenry against them. The Cold War has become, understandably enough, one of the chief pillars of oligarchic power.


The Restoration of Self-Government

The near-monopoly of American politics by two collusive party syndicates is not one problem among many. It is the first and fundamental one as well as the wellspring of most of the others. As long as the present oligarchy rules, we will not have a restrained and peaceable foreign policy; we will not see racism languish and mutual respect grow among the citizenry. We will not see special interests curbed, economic dependence diminished nor special privilege stripped from the overprivileged. We will not see bureaucratic caprice curtailed nor our schools made fit for the children of free men. We will not see the public wealth beneficially spent. The government will continue to turn into a Circumlocution Office when called upon to remedy a common grievance or correct a glaring abuse.

The party oligarchs do not act as they do out of a random and gratuitous malevolence. The party oligarchs are neither malevolent nor benevolent; they are self-interested. 'What they have done they have done, first, to usurp the citizens' power and then to secure that usurpation. To expect them to carry out voluntarily, in a fit of political altruism, reforms that endanger their power is a sad and fatal delusion. To expect reformers acceptable to the bosses to do so is a vain and forlorn hope, hope in the service of the enemies of hope and so one more falsehood in the system of public lies that now darken our public life.

For the free men of this Republic there is only one way to make a new beginning. We must, in Lincoln's words, "meet and overthrow the present ruling dynasty" We the citizens of the Republic must find the means to break up party control of politics and strip the usurpers of their corrupt and corrupting power. This cannot be done, however, by a national mass movement, because no mass movement ever overthrew an oligarchy without setting up another in its place. 'What perpetually and radically imperils the ruling oligarchy in this Republic is the political liberty of the citizen and its vigilant exercise, a liberty which the oligarchs can impair but not destroy, the exercise of which they can discourage but not forbid. The only certain means to overthrow the present ruling dynasty without setting up another is to augment political liberty itself; to increase the capacity and willingness of the citizens to act in their own behalf, to make it easier for free men to enter public life, to bring issues that interest them into the public arena, to bring forward for elective office independent men who have won their trust, to make it easier for independent men to win their trust and so by a rigorous exercise of liberty to hold elected officials accountable.

By teaching every person how to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom, republican education would try to ensure, as far as it is humanly possible, that the citizens themselves become the firm and enlightened partisans of the Republic, which is nothing more or less than the constitution of their liberty. It means a citizenry which tries to apply to every important public measure and policy the fundamental republican standard does it augment or abridge the exercise of liberty? Does it weaken or strengthen corrupt, irresponsible power? It means a citizenry which understands that the struggle to maintain a genuine republic is itself a never-ending struggle, that equal liberty, in Lincoln's words, "must be constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated."

Since people cannot even begin to understand the requirements of their liberty without a grasp of political reality, the heart of republican education, the very core and spine of its curriculum, must be the study of political history, that vast and wonderful stage of public action, which reveals what is most noble and most vile in men, which discloses the scope of man's power over forces and processes, which displays ambition under all its shapes, which tells stories of the death of kings and of republics. Such stories, in truth, would be far more interesting to the young, just as they would be far more instructive, than the prancing of Dick and Jane, the "evolution of transportation" and the whole farrago of "social studies" which is now obliterating the very idea of political history from the minds of the young in accordance with the oligarchs' fundamental pedagogical commandment: thou shalt not be taught what free men must know. I have no doubt that America's educators will prove as ingenious and imaginative in forging the curriculum of liberty as they have been in framing the curriculum of oligarchy. What they need is a change of employers.

Beneath the feet of every citizen lies the foundations of the Republic. Beneath the party oligarchy lies nothing but unexposed mendacity and successful fraud. It is this which accounts for the peculiar condition of American politics, at once so puzzling and so infuriating to foreign observers; the existence of a public life polluted with lies yet virtually untainted by public cynicism. The true voice of political corruption has not yet been heard in this Republic-the voice of the usurper who openly claims that his might is his right, that power belongs to whoever can grasp it. The party oligarchs make self-government a sham, but they dare not call self-government a sham. They wield great power but they claim no right to such power; they are forced to deny its very existence.

Hypocrisy, it is said, is the respect vice pays to virtue, and so it is with the incredible hypocrisy of public life in America. It is impossible for party politicians to be candid about anything, for what they would soon have to admit in candor is that they stand opposed to self-government and the constitution of liberty. That they dare not do. That corrupted the Republic is not. The authority of a free constitution lived under for nearly two centuries has a weight and force in public life which is beyond human ken to measure and beyond the oligarchs' power to defy. It is the force and weight of that authority-and Americans recognize no other authority-which stands behind the cause of liberty and of every citizen who elects to fight for it. The party oligarchs wield innumerable weapons but one mighty weapon is denied them in any struggle to oppose the augmentation of liberty. They cannot tell American citizens that they are unfit for self-rule. By an apparent paradox it is the adherents of liberty in this Republic who are free to speak and who speak with authority. It is the ruling dynasty which is gagged.

Doubtless cynics will say that Americans are not interested in governing themselves and do not want the cares of liberty. The party oligarchs, however, are wiser than the cynics. That is why they are never cynical in public. It is not because Americans are indifferent to liberty that the oligarchs keep "friends to republican government" from holding public office. It is not because self-government is the rarefied ideal of the enlightened few that the oligarchs try to keep republican issues out of the public arena. They know that liberty and self-government form a standard to which Americans will repair. That is what the ruling dynasty knows and fears, and their fears, as always, are identical with our hopes.

Indispensible Enemies

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